10 Tips to Make Your Small Room Feel Big

Posted on Jun 10th 2012 Posted by David — Comments ↓

You have a small room in a big house, or a small room in a small house. It may be a kitchen, a bathroom, a den, or the only place you have for a living room. How do you make it look, feel and even operate like a larger space? Here's what I know.

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Seriously, he's starting with the floor? Well, yes. It's what we do, you see, and these really are very good tips if you have the option of making changes with your flooring. If you don't, then by all means, please skip down to the next sections. Those are good tips too. By the way, that's a button up there. A big, red button.

1. Wide Flooring Pieces

Use wider planks or tiles. It might seem more intuitive to put smaller patterns in a smaller room, like a parquet floor or tiny, multicolored tiles, but these make the place busy for the eye, which increases a sense of being cramped. Larger and wider planks and tiles make a place look larger. You'll have fewer seams or grout lines, which, in addition to being easier to keep clean, unclutter the look of room.

2. Uncomplicated Flooring

Rather than having a different floor for each room, allow the flooring to continue from one room to another, certainly from a small room to the next one. Likewise, within the room use the same flooring from wall to wall. Different floor types will break a room into even smaller areas.

A customer photo of their installed Cumberland Falls Tennessee Farmhouse Laminate Flooring

   

3. Color, Light and Sound

It's one of the important things to consider when choosing color tones for your floor.  

(Place a hand in front of either side of the picture and you will see what a difference the floor color makes to the room.)

Placing a dark stained floor in a small room with low light and dark colored walls can leave the place feeling like a dungeon. So before you put down some heavy change for a floor you might have second thoughts about, consider some things about the space your floor will be filling.

A QUICK ASIDE ON DARK COLORS

Dark floors can be very trendy.  They make a bold statement and bring out the look and feel of your furniture. They work best in open and well lit rooms, offices, kitchens, and studios, because you may not always see these colors in spaces like a dining room or a bathroom. There is a reason for that. Dark floors make rooms dark. If you need better light in your room, this can be easily remedied by painting the walls with a lighter color. Darker floors also have a higher maintenance. Dust and scratches can be more easily seen than with a lighter wood color, so they require more cleaning more often. If this is not a problem for you and you are looking for a bold, high contrast look that makes your decor stand out, then a dark colored floor may be just the right thing for you.   

But they make rooms look smaller.

a picture of a room with the walls alternating from dark to light tones
Wall color makes quite a difference, even in this computer generated image.

NOW, A QUICK ASIDE ON LIGHT COLORS

Light colored floors are timeless, classy, and easy to decorate around. They are versatile with any floor space, ceiling height, and lighting. Because of the low visibility of scratches, light colored floors are good for homes with pets. They can also make any room look brighter and feel bigger. Maybe lighter tones can seem boring, but they do have a feel that works in all rooms and does not go out of fashion. If you want your lighter shade of flooring to stand out more, look for a wood that has a strong texture and color variations in the planks.   

A picture of a room with the floor alternating in styles
Here instead of the walls changing, the floor is. You can make these changes yourself with a lot of different floors in our Room Scene Visualizer.

SERIOUSLY, DO NOT DISMISS SAMPLES

You may be about to spend a thousand or more dollars on something you'll live with for years, if not a few decades.  It's all worth getting a sample first.  No matter what floor color you decide to go with, samples will be your best friend. Most stores and online merchants offer them for free. Take advantage of that and get some samples. A sales picture or display may look nice but your home will not be under the same professional lighting.  Our pictures are fantastic, better than most pictures on most flooring sites, but you won't be walking on a computer screen with glowing pictures, but a real floor that reflects light.  

You need to see the real thing.

Placing a sample on the floor in direct sunlight, moonlight, and under your home lighting, or matching it up with your current furniture, all of these will give you a much better idea of your end result.    

If your rooms can see each other, try to keep the wall colors similar, if not the same. More important than that, in the small room definitely go for as light of a color as you find you like for your flooring. While you do not necessarily need to use all white for a small room, lighter and cooler colors are always much better at creating a sense of open space.  Try for a simple, subtle grain pattern as well, with few knots and patterns in it. Light and uncluttered, that's the game. It's the same with vinyl or tiles, stick to lighter, more neutral tones, and subtle patterning, if any at all. With either, if you wind up choosing a natural floor color, the focus of the room will be drawn away from the floor, which also takes focus off the room's size.

Polished or high gloss flooring will reflect light, and will offer that subtle, mirrored effect where the furnishings meet it, adding to the sense of openness of space.

With flooring, you can also consider sound. An echoey room can seem closed in. For extra sound dampening, try to use the best possible padding under your floor.

4. Floor Direction

The least effective direction to lay long planks would be lengthwise through the room. It emphasizes any narrowness, and quickly leads the eyes right to the other wall. Two great options are to lay the flooring widthwise, or even at a diagonal. Diagonal layouts can make a room really stand out, and will lead the eyes side to side, and around the place rather than right to the walls. Boards laid widthwise will recede from the eye, even in a small space, and convey distance and depth to the room.  

Planks installed perpendicular to the room's longer direction

Walls and Ceilings

5. Color and Light

Furthering the lack of visual complication, consider matching your walls to your floor. Go for monochrome. Continuity eliminates visual breakup, opening a room up. In any case, definitely keep the walls all one color. One color throughout the room will make the place feel larger. Even if the tints aren't exact, keep the colors close, and if the walls and floor must differ, make the walls the lighter of the two.

Just as you try to keep the walls lighter than the floor, make the ceiling lightest of all. Lighter colors open a space up, and the ceiling is the best place to do that.

If your room has an entryway, you can paint and light the area to be darker than the room proper. As one walks in, things will get brighter. Bright evokes the outdoors, and most people think that outside is really, really big.

If it's in your control, go for a lot of windows, big windows, allowing natural light in. Avoid those silly, white shears which turn a window into a big, glowing square, and wall it off. If security will allow, keep the view viewable.

One of our customers' pictures of their finished room, with many Big Room Tips employed
This is already a nice sized area, but look how many of these techniques are employed and how well they work. The flooring is made of wide planks, installed perpendicular to the room\'s length, and continuing between areas. While the floor is a dark tone, note that the walls are lighter, and the ceilings lighter still. There are lots of windows which, even closed off, still control the light in the room, and look at that little area on the left side of the photo, the smallest, but also the brightest area in the whole picture. Open, bright, airy... very nice work here!

   

6. Wall Hangings

Mirrors. Right? Mirrors! Especially with big ones, mirrors make a room seem up to twice as big. It's an effect that works even when you're aware that it's just an effect, and that there isn't really an exact duplicate of your room populated with mimics staring back at you on the other side of the glass.

As for paintings or wall hangings, you're better off using one really big one rather than a bunch of small ones. It's a similar phenomenon to the patterning issue with the flooring.

                 

Furnishings

7. Use of Space

Following the "Small rooms doesn't mean small things" theme we're on, don't limit yourself to small furniture. Instead of a lot of small pieces, have just a couple of larger pieces of furniture, and go for simplicity of design.

A good rule is to allow your furnishings to occupy no more than 2/3 of the space in the room.

Don't ignore the space above eye level. Go vertical! If you need shelving, take it all the way to the ceiling. Increasing storage space will help you keep the room uncluttered with things. Likewise, if you have curtains, run them from the ceiling all the way to the floor. They'll add a sense of height, and of a larger window behind.

As Alton Brown advises with kitchen tools, for your small room, look for multi-taskers. Hide-a-beds or trundle beds are good pieces for such a room. Think also of end tables or nightstands with storage underneath. Any kinds of closet organization items can be employed in creative ways in other small areas of the house.  

8. Patterns

Just as a glass shower door makes a bathroom seem larger, so do glass tables make a room seem more open.

The patterning issue I discussed with flooring applies to fabric as well, the surface of your couch or pillow, your curtains, picture frames - for any and all of these go with simple, subtle patterns, if any at all, and try to maintain the monochrome goal.

 

Your Things

9. Avoid Distractions

Here is where you can add color, though you want to do so cautiously. Easy eye flow is one of our goals, so any object which pops out and says, " I'M here! You there, look at ME!!" will interrupt that. Visual speed bumps make a room feel small. I can't explain the psychology of it, but that's how it works.

Keep everything in place. Put things back where they go. Basically, keep your small room clean and it will stop feeling small. Scatter things hither, thither and yon, and even a big room feels cramped. It's not just Mom, it's life.  

10. Keep it Tidy

Nice and neat; neat and clean; clean and easy, bright and open . . .

For that matter, try to just have fewer things in the room. Keep the necessities, and the very favorite decoration, rather than all of them. Use your vertical storage to keep things available, but otherwise out of sight.

Electronics are now compact. TVs can be flat screen. You don't need a component stereo set to play all of your different sorts of music, nor shelves of DVDs and CDs. Take advantage of these new technologies if your room will entertain.    

– – – –
David is has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with  W. David Lichty

 

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